It’s funny, really. I never really considered myself a fan of Dungeons & Dragons or games with a “Roll Dice” mechanic. I never really understood the appeal behind such games because I am more of an Action RPG guy. However, after I was approached by a member of the Star Traders: Frontiers community; I decided to give the game a fair shot and provide some criticism.
I mean, seriously, the last time I tried a game like this was with ICY: Frostbite Edition a long time ago. So, I really wasn’t looking forward to what I was going to be in for when I started playing the game. Thankfully, Trese Brothers shattered my expectations and delivered a game that I can amply recommend for fans of the sci-fi genre.
Building an RPG in SPACE
If I were to describe Star Traders: Frontiers, I would say something like: “D&D in Space”. The game is an open-world/sandbox style sci-fi RPG. In it, you become the captain of your very own spaceship with the goal of making a living in the vast reaches of space.
You’ll be able to customize your Captain’s look and traits from the start. In other words, you’ll be able to start your adventure as a space pirate, merchant, or explorer, among other jobs. The job you take will heavily influence the playstyle you’ll be having during your adventure through space.
For example, if you pick Merchant as your profession, the gameplay will heavily focus on your ability to sell/trade goods across the universe. Alternatively, you can become a bounty hunter to perform several errands and engage in combat frequently. It’s up to you to decide which profession better fits your playstyle.
You have 3 types of the crew on the ship including your Captain, Officers and Crew Members. Your Captain is your main playing character and both the Captain and Officers can have up to 3 jobs. Meanwhile, your Crew Members will specialize in a single job and get talents and skills that will aid you in your crusade.
No Character Build Will Be the Same
The number of jobs, traits, and customization options available for the player can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it lets players fully decide on their character build. On the other, it can be a daunting experience for a new player with no experience in RPGs like this.
I spent around 20-30 minutes on the character customization screen. Most of that time was spent reading paragraph after paragraph of numbers, stats, job descriptions, and other traits. It’s an issue if a player is faced with so many decisions at once at just the start of the game. Not helping things is the lack of a tutorial or some way to ease new players into an experience like this.
Decision Fatigue can hit a player after a while. Thus, they can end up selecting a job that doesn’t fit their character or stats that don’t benefit their talents just to get a move on. Thankfully, the game does provide some presets that let you start off with different playstyles. Of course, you can always make your own preset and start your adventure that way.
Embarking on a Journey
So, now that we’re done selecting our difficulty (we’ll talk about that later), our jobs, and stats. It’s time to head out into the Void and see what the universe has to offer. Star Traders: Frontiers puts you amid a constantly evolving galaxy torn by internal strife, political intrigue, and alien threats.
The world will evolve as you progress through the game. Multiple factions will always be interacting with each other and major plot elements will be developed whether you’re directly influencing the story or not. Yes, this means that the progression in this game is entirely non-linear and the player will miss several story points while focusing on others.
Honestly, I’m not sure if this is a plus or a negative toward the story itself. Imagine having to juggle between several story quests (which have expiration dates, mind you) while trying to learn the ropes AND explore space. Most of the time, you only have one shot and every decision you make will always have a consequence.
I suppose you could use this as an excuse to do multiple playthroughs of the game. In the end, the real thrill of the story comes when you get to make the decisions you DIDN’T make as a different class. How would a merchant react to the idea of being a diplomat for a union of factions? Or, how would a Bounty Hunter act on a mission that requires a delivery service from one place to another?
Learning About The World
In the end, I believe that the story is at least solid enough. I ended up finding myself captivated by the lines of dialogue spoken by several characters. I mean, in one of the various subplots, you get to witness the struggle of a woman being accused of an act of terrorism. In another plot, you take the adoptive son of a Prince from a faction under your command for a few years to see if he’s prepared to take on the ruthless corners of space.
If I were to give advice to any new player, I’d say stick to one plot and see through it till the end of the play session. You’re better off exploring all the possibilities that one plot can offer instead of juggling everything around and not achieving a single outcome.
I believe that replay value could definitely be encouraged from the story alone. However, let me just say that this game DOES require you to hear a lot of technical jargon. You’ll have to hear about Templars, hierarchies, faction history, lore, lore, lore, and more lore. At some points, I will admit that I have turned my brain off and tried to go along with the quests.
Sure, we need the world-building to establish what kind of structure the game has to offer. However, it also can become quite boring and tedious to go through if you are not particularly interested in that storyline. Thankfully, some of the storylines do offer quick skips through dialogue for those who just want to do something without wanting to know why.
The Tools of the Star Trader
In Star Traders: Frontiers, you must keep track of a lot of elements in order to succeed as… Well, a Star Trader. That means a fully customizable ship with several components that you need to keep track of and maintain; a crew that needs to be paid monthly for their services; the constantly changing values of the trade market for several items and goodies; and of course, Money.
Nothing is free in Star Traders, so you’ll find yourself always having a risk factor while you explore the vastness of space. On some occasions, you’ll trek along rather easily; in others, you’ll be regretting every decision you made as a horde of Xeno aliens murders your entire crew and destroys your ship.
When I said that every decision mattered in this game, I meant it. Factions will always remember the things you do and don’t do for them. So, imagine doing a political favor for one faction that directly harms another. It can get to a point where one faction starts sending Bounty Hunters or military ships to destroy you while barring you from doing things like repairing your ship on planets belonging to them.
Guidance? What’s that?
Before you even think about that, no, you cannot be friends with every faction. You have the chance to a$k for forgiveness, but there will always be something that rubs a certain faction the wrong way. This pretty much makes you think twice about the decisions you make. Something as menial as bribing the crew of a ship can become a decision you’ll come to regret later.
This is maybe made worse by the fact that… you’re provided with NO GUIDANCE throughout the whole thing. Sure, the game goes out of its way to tell you what the repercussions of your actions MIGHT be, but in terms of downright telling you what’s best for you? No. In the end, everything you do will come back to aid you or bite you in the ass.
There’s a “Consult” button but I might as well call it “The tutorial for things you already figured out” button. The button allows your crew to give you advice on some of the things you can do in the game. By that, I mean that they basically tell you how things in the game work. More often than not, you already figured things out via experimentation, so the advice comes as redundant and unnecessary.
And speaking of redundant…
The Boring World of the Trading World
Trading can become dull… FAST. This is made worse by the fact that this can be one of the main things you do in the game! There are plenty of basic and lucrative trade goods to find all over the game’s world. So that means a lot of stuff you have to experiment with and go between planets to figure out if you made the right decisions.
This means a lot of save-scumming if you want to save time after making mistakes or relying on the Black Market to gain some sort of profit. What’s the point of doing this? Just get some money which you can spend on even more trading. Really, it becomes a dull experience because you don’t get to do anything other than going from point A to point B and sell what you have.
Not to mention, that you can also have factions conducting trade bans. Guess what? This makes honest trading even more difficult than it should be and will basically put a hit mark on you. I hope you enjoy trying to deal with military forces hailing on the average ship that you have dedicated to trading.
Fortunately, there is an alternative for you if you want to fight back against them.
Shooting Bad Guys With Spaceships
Taking on a militaristic approach will let you enjoy the benefits of high profits while engaging in multiple space battles. You can also do such things as spying on certain planets to gather some secrets that other planets would use or perform military blockades to engage against more ships.
While the game is ironically named Star Traders, the bigger focus seems to be on the space battles and exploration. Thus, I will use this section to explain the combat mechanics.
You can engage in both space combat and ground combat. Both of which are done in a static manner where you select offensive and defensive tactical and combat abilities in a turn-based fashion. I’m going to be blunt; it can sometimes degrade to mashing abilities until one ship dies or the crew dies or is forced to surrender.
Speaking of that, YES, your components can be damaged during battle. So, imagine having a certain weapon in your arsenal which works at a certain range being destroyed. It pretty much means that you’ll have to painstakingly attempt to move to another range or flee while the enemy ruthlessly continues to pound missiles and laser beams upon you.
Admittedly, it’s also fun and cathartic to see the opponent do the same once you destroyed their precious resources. One of my fondest memories of this game was when I saw an enemy ship confidently closing in as the battle started. Then, once their only line of defense was destroyed; I was laughing like a maniac while the enemy tried to flee and failed every single time.
I’m putting my hands up now, I suck as a trader. So, I’m glad that I could enjoy the game this way… Until the difficulty set in.
A Difficulty Mountain
Star Traders: Frontiers is hard, very hard. However, I think that it’s not for the right reasons. If it isn’t the huge barrier of entry; it’s the several amounts of RNG-based mechanics that are pretty much rigged against you from the start of the game. You must take a lot of things into account and prepare for the amount of bull-I mean, hardships that space has for you.
From mechanical failures; alien and military attacks; hoping to RNGsus that you don’t get attacked during exploration; to even the freaking chances of your attacks connecting. Almost everything in this game is subject to RNG.
Combine that with the fact that the game doesn’t lead you through a progression curve, and… Well, don’t be surprised by the fact that the next thing you know is that you have a difficulty monolith materializing right in front of your face. Sometimes even soft locking you and forcing you to start from scratch.
The game needs a guide. Whether it is a friendly hand from the game’s Discord group or simply an experienced player that knows when things go bad. I wouldn’t harp on the game so harshly if it didn’t lead me to so many missions where I was in a fight I simply was not going to win. Why was I prepared for this? I had a guide and a good one at that.
Star Traders: Frontiers Review Conclusion
Look, I could spend all day talking about how many things this game does right and wrong. It could be the difficulty, the lack of rewarding trading sequences, and other things like that. But, if you think that left me with a bad impression, allow me to surprise you.
I think Star Traders: Frontiers is a fun game. The game can be rough for newcomers, but it can also become quite a pleasing and relaxing experience for people who love games like D&D. Because of this, I recommend it for anyone looking for a thrill and a single-player experience you can sink several hours of your time into.
I think that the music and graphics are solid; the ships are colorful and varied; the number of incredible sceneries that show each planet is breathtaking at points. You know, it’s quite telling of Trese Brothers’ knack for designing an unforgettable RPG experience.
I mean, seriously, the game definitely feels like a Space simulator. There are a lot of things that can go wrong and prematurely put an end to your journey. And, quite honestly, it’s up to the player to adapt to these things, guidance or not. In the end, it’s up to the people who get prepared to make the best of what they have.
Adaptation is the first word that comes to mind in this case. So, if you want to have an experience that will test your skills as a captain. Do join the community in the discord server. You might even make a new friend in the deepest reaches of the galaxy.
What do you think about our Star Traders: Frontiers review? Are you going to try the game out on PC or mobile? Which are your favorite turn-based RPGs? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. Do you want to check out another game review? Have a look at our Alpha Prime Retro Review.
Star Traders: Frontiers
This game is an incredible source of entertainment for fans of games like Dungeons & Dragons. However, it can be held back by the difficulty and the lack of guidance for the player.
- Complete Freedom of choice
- Extensive storyline with multiple outcomes
- Combat is easy to understand
- Customizable ships and crews
- Pretty thorough focus on lore and story elements
- High replay value
- Trading can become dull quite quickly
- So many aspects of it can be subject to RNG
- The lack of guidance can make for a confusing experience
- Steep difficulty curve
Great and honest review. Do echo your thoughts on the guidance. As one of the mods on the discord, I created a full walk-through of the game for a 20 year period, explaining logic and decisions. It’s available on both Steam and youtube. Would also encourage readers to hop on the discord to ask questions about the game and/or use it as a 24/7 help desk, as we are always very active (and friendly) on discord. Thanks again for your efforts to put together the review. 🙂
I’m glad you enjoyed the review. The discord continues to surprise me with how co-operative it has been to newer players. It feels like they live in a family of sorts.